ON THIS DATE (8TH JANUARY) 97 YEARS AGO : FIVE IRA MEN EXECUTED BY FREE STATERS.
In memory of Leo Dowling, Sylvester Heaney, Laurence Sheeky, Anthony O’Reilly and Terence Brady.
‘Laurence Sheeky had a remarkable short life. He was just 22 when he was executed in 1923 during a turbulent time in Irish history…(he) was born 1901, the son of Patrick and Margaret Sheeky, in Braystown, Robinstown Co. Meath. He joined the (Free State) Army and in 1922 Private Sheeky was assigned to Baldonnel Aerodrome to guard aircraft.
Around this time the Leixlip Flying IRA Column was founded and its leader, Patrick Mullaney, a teacher from Balla, Co. Mayo, would often visit Baldonnel and became very friendly with the Free State soldiers, Laurence Sheeky amongst them. On the 27th September 1922 the provisional (FS) government granted itself emergency powers, that any civilian charged with taking up arms against the State or even possessing arms could be tried in a military court and face the death penalty. Still, such a sentence did not impact on Laurence’s Republican feelings and he decided to join the Flying Column. In December 1922, the Column came under attack after taking over Grangewilliam House in Leixlip and after a fierce gun battle, 20 IRA gunmen were captured, Sheeky and Sylvester Heaney from Dillonstown amongst them as well as Thomas McCann from Duleek Street, Drogheda, who had also been stationed at Baldonnel.
They were put on trial and the death sentence was handed down to Sheeky and Heaney, who was just 19 at the time. Three others would also be put to death. On 8th January 1923, the five were executed by firing squad. Laurence Sheeky’s family were never told about his execution and his parents learned of their son’s death on their way to Ardee by a family friend who sympathised with them. In 1938, Laurence Sheeky’s body was brought home to Co Meath and he was buried in the new cemetery on the Boyne Road with full military honours…
After a skirmish on the border of County Kildare and County Meath, the Meath Anti-Treaty IRA column, consisting of 22 men under Paddy Mullally is captured. The Republicans attack a Free State supply column near Leixlip. One Republican and one Free State soldier are killed in the action and three Republicans are wounded. Five of the Anti-Treaty men, who had previously deserted from the National (FS) Army, are executed in Dublin on 8 January 1923 for “treachery”.
Three Meath men were executed in 1923, Two, Laurence Sheeky from Braytown and Terence Brady from Wilkinstown, were executed in Portobello on 8th January 1923 and Thomas Murray from Kilcarn but originaly from Whitecross Co, Armagh was executed on 13th January 1923 in Dundalk Jail. Laurence Sheeky and Terence Brady were executed with comrades Leo Dowling from Askinran Co, Kildare, Sylvester Heavey from Dillonstown Co, Louth and Anthony O`Reilly from Celbridge Co, Kildare. All five who deserted from the National army were arrested in Leixlip Co, Kildare on 1st December 1922 when an attack was carried out on an army (FS) supply lorry which had broken down in the townland of Collinstown on the Maynooth road.
In follow up searches carried out by the Free State army a number of confrontations occurred with insurgents resulting in over twenty insurgents being arrested. During the battles three insurgents were wounded and a Free State soldier killed. Twenty one rifles, a Thompson sub-machine gun, six revolvers, a Lewis sub-machine gun, grenades and a substantial amount of ammunition were recovered. The five – Sheeky, Brady, Dowling, Heavey and O`Reilly – were brought to Kilmainham Jail and Court Marshalled on 11th December 1922. The charges were as follows:
1) “TREACHERY ON THE 1ST DECEMBER 1922 IN THAT THEY AT LEIXLIP, CO, KILDARE ASSISTED CERTAIN ARMED PERSONS IN USING FORCE AGAINST THE NATIONAL ARMY”
2) “TREACHERY COMMUNICATING AND CONSERTING WITH ARMED PERSONS MENTIONED IN THE FIRST CHARGE, IN THE PLACE AND AT THE TIME MENTIONED”
All five were found guilty of both charges and sentenced to death. The men were executed on 8th January 1923 at Keogh barracks and were buried there, however, just a year later, the bodies were handed over to the families for burial in their own home towns…’ (from here.)
In memory of those Irish republicans executed by colleagues who were led astray and turned against them.
‘WHO HONOURS PEARSE..?’
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, December 1954.
Padraig Pearse’s love of the poor, dumb, suffering people, which he expressed in so many parables, was “Christ-like”, according to some of the conscience-jugglers, and his fierce patriotism was “supremely Christian”, according to them. Yes, gentlemen ; but allow me to maintain reverence and still pursue the parallelism of Pearse’s ‘Christ-like’ virtures – like Our Lord, Pearse claimed many astonishing things that did not suit ‘respectability’, nor current rulers.
Christ said he was the Son of God ; that is God or madman talking. Pearse said he would answer to God for the bloodshed and destruction of the 1916 Rising. The main thing, as Pearse saw it, was to get Irish political power back into Irish hands. After that, the social and economic conquest could be extirpated. Like Pearse, Irish republicans would be glad to use only moral force if England used ONLY moral force, but England continues to press her conquest with British ‘law’ and wartime exploitation of the shipbuilding and linen industries, the same industries that are left to rot in peacetime. But her chief weapon in maintaining the conquest is, as ever, armed force. That is why constitutional agitation has failed to bring freedom any nearer in the 30-odd years since the ‘Trick Treaty’ was forced on us by the enemy under threat of “immediate and terrible war”.
Who honours Pearse as Pearse would have wished to be honoured – the politicians who make a virtue of apathy by calling it ‘patience’? Or the man who strikes to free his children from shameful bonds?
(END of ‘Who Honours Pearse?’. Next – ‘A Sacred Trust’, from the same source.)
ON THIS DATE (8TH JANUARY) 149 YEARS AGO : BIRTH OF A 40,000-STRONG PRO-BRITISH PARAMILITARY LEADER.
“..James Craig (pictured) was born in Belfast in 1871, son of a distiller. He was a millionaire by the age of 40 – much of his money coming from his adventures in stockbroking…he first distinguished himself in the (British) Army. Everybody had enjoyed the first Boer War so much that they decided to do it all over again and from 1899 Craig served as an officer in the 3rd Royal Irish Rifles. He was, at one point, imprisoned by the Boers and was finally forced home by dysentery in 1901…” (from here.)
Before the British partitioned Ireland in 1921, pogroms by loyalists in Belfast were carried out by the ‘Ulster Volunteer Force’ (UVF), a loyalist paramilitary outfit, with the British Army and the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) looking on, but not intervening. The loyalist political leader, James Craig , who was concerned at the level of resistance to pro-British misrule, realised that the British hold on the island was slipping but was determined to protect his own patch, in the North-Eastern corner – he insisted that Westminster establish a ‘Special Constabulary’ to assist the British Army and the RIC and, at a meeting of the British Cabinet on 6th September, 1920, he got his wish ; a force of “well-disposed and loyal citizens” was to be established for operational purposes in the North-Eastern Counties only – the Six County area. This new unit was to be known as the ‘Ulster Special Constabulary’ and was to be divided into three sub-units ; the A, B and C Specials.
The A-Specials were a full-time unit, and were based in RIC barracks, thus allowing more ‘police officers’ free to leave their desks and assist their colleagues in cracking skulls in Nationalist areas ; the B-Specials were a part-time but fully-armed unit, that were sent out on patrol duty, with or without the British Army or RIC and the C-Specials, a reserve unit for those eager to serve ‘Queen and Country’ on a ‘call-us-if-you-need-us basis (and it’s those same paramilitary thugs that Leinster House seeks to honour on the 17th of this month ; only a politically-immature and subservient ‘Irish parliament’ would wish to commemorate those who accepted arms and political direction from a foreign government, and used both, in an attempt to extinguish all things Irish).
James Craig also played a role in ‘maintaining the empire’ after Ireland had been partitioned ; in 1924, by then anointed as a ‘Sir’, James Craig was also enjoying power and position as the British-appointed ‘Prime Minster’ of the Stormont ‘government’ in the occupied Six Counties, was in a foul mood – his temper tantrums could be traced back to a certain clause in the then three-year-old ‘Treaty of Surrender’ – the clause (‘Article 12’ of that treaty) which established a boundary commission re the imposed artificial border between 26 Irish counties and six other Irish counties, and which was agreed to by the British reluctantly (under protest, if you like). The agreed terms of reference for that commission was ‘..to determine in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants so far as may be compatible with economic and geographic conditions, the boundaries between Northern Ireland (sic) and the rest of Ireland..’
That body consisted of three members, one from each political administration – Dublin (represented by Free State ‘Minister for Education’, Eoin MacNeill), Stormont (the representative for which, Joseph R. Fisher, was put in place by the British, as ‘Ulster’ refused to put forward a representative, which should have brought that abomination to an end, there and then) and Westminster, and was ‘Chaired’ by Justice Richard Feetham, a South African Judge (and a good friend of the British ‘Establishment’) who also happened to be the British representative on the Commission ; in other words, the Staters meekly observed as the British picked two of the three representatives!
The British (in the guise of ‘Sir’ James Craig, one of their main players) were determined that the ‘Boundary Commission’ “..would deal only with minor rectifications of the boundary..” while Michael Collins claimed that the Free Staters would be offered “..almost half of Northern Ireland (sic) including the counties of Fermanagh and Tyrone, large parts of Antrim and Down, Derry City, Enniskillen and Newry…”, to which the then British ‘Colonial Secretary to Ireland’, Winston Churchill, replied, stating that the possibility of the ‘Boundary Commission’ “..reducing Northern Ireland (sic) to its preponderatingly Orange (ie Unionist) areas (is) an extreme and absurd supposition, far beyond what those who signed the  Treaty meant..”
Eoin MacNeill, the Free State representative on the commission, stated that the majority of the inhabitants of Tyrone and Fermanagh, and possibly Derry, South Down and South Armagh would prefer their areas to be incorporated into the Free State rather than remain as they were ie ‘on the other side of the border’, under British jurisdiction, but the other two (Westminster-appointed) members of the commission, Fisher and Chairperson Feetham, then disputed with MacNeill what the term ‘in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants’ actually meant. When MacNeill reported back to his Free State colleagues and voiced concern over the way the ‘Boundary Commission’ was doing its business, he was more-or-less told to just do his best – his colleagues were ‘comfortable’ by then ; they had status, careers and a bright (personal) future ahead of them. The 1916 Rising had taken place eight years ago, the Treaty of Surrender had been signed three years ago and now the Stormont ‘Prime Minister’, ‘Sir’ James Craig, was threatening ‘to cause more trouble’ if the Boundary Commission recommended change.
The Staters thought it best just to be seen going through the motions, regardless of whether anything changed or not, especially when they considered the threat from the Stormont ‘Minister for Education’, ‘Lord’ Londonderry (pictured, on the left, posing with friends) – “If by its findings any part of the territory transferred to us under the Act of 1920 is placed under the Free State, we may have to consider very carefully and very anxiously the measures which we shall have to adopt, as a government, for the purpose of assisting loyalists whom your commission may propose to transfer to the Free State but who may wish to remain with us, with Great Britain and the Empire.”
Then, on the 7th October 1924, ‘Sir’ James Craig (the Stormont ‘Prime Minister’) took to the floor in Stormont and made a speech directed at Westminster – Craig knew his British ‘friends’ well enough to know that they would not hesitate to cross him : he stated in his speech that an “unfavourable” decision by the commission would see him resign as Stormont ‘Prime Minister’ and take charge of at least 40,000 armed men who were of similar mind with him, and that they would not rule out any steps necessary “to defend their territory”. Eoin MacNeill had his ‘concerns’ further added to when the ‘Boundary Commission’ stated that, in actual fact, the Free State should transfer some of its territory to the Six County ‘State’!
He finally resigned in disgust on the 21st November 1925 (his absence thus further rendering that Commission ‘unconstitutional’) and, in a parting shot, the British claimed that, before he resigned, he had agreed that the Free State should cede some territory to the ‘Northern Ireland State’, a claim which may or may not have prompted him to also resign (on the 24th November 1925) from the Free State administration. Within days (that is, on the 3rd December 1925) , all those that were still involved with the ‘Boundary Commission’ farce agreed that the ‘border’, as fixed 5 years earlier in the ‘1920 Government of Ireland Act’ and as stated in the 1921 ‘Treaty of Surrender’, would so remain, and an agreement was signed to that effect by all concerned. Those representatives also agreed that the ‘findings’ of that body should be kept hidden and, indeed, that paperwork was only published for the first time 44 years later, in 1969!
The Free Staters in Leinster House could (and should) have taken a legal case stating that the Boundary Commission was not properly constituted, as per the agreed 1921 Treaty, thereby highlighting, on an international stage, British duplicity – but that would have required ‘balls’, excuse the language, and the Free Staters, then, as now, have none.
‘Sir’ James Craig, 69 years of age, was in his house with his wife in Glencraig in County Down on the 24th November, 1940 (the same year that he tried to persuade Winston Churchill to invade the Free State!) when he dropped dead in his armchair. His body was entombed on the grounds of Stormont Castle, along with all the other Irish ills that are located there.
‘MANUS IN A PICKLE(S)’…
‘Manus Nunan is a small, genial, cultivated Irish gentleman whose mother was an actress. He speaks fluent French. He was born in Dublin in 1926 and was educated there, graduating from Trinity College with third-class honours in law ; he is no high-flyer, intellectually, as he admits, but circuit judges and recorders do not need to be. His Irish catholic family was one of the few to continue to serve the crown after the partition of Ireland in 1922. His family has a history of service to the crown..’ – this is how the English judge, James Pickles, introduces a central character in his new book, ‘Straight From The Bench’. From ‘Magill’ magazine, May 1987.
On November 24th 1986, Lord Hailsham wrote to Manus Nunan, telling him that he was not changing his earlier decision. Judge James Pickles sympathises with Manus Nunan in his assumption that, for lack of any other explanation, he should believe himself to have been victimised, though Judge Pickles believes that Nunan is wrong about linking Lord Hailsham’s decision to the Brighton bombing.
He does, however, call for “a public inquiry into the judicial appointments system with particular reference to the case of Manus Nunan”. For Nunan, who had announced that he intended to resign soon after his hoped-for reappointment, it is some assistance towards restoring his reputation. He is now arranging to spend part of his retirement in the south of France.
(END of ‘Manus In A Pickle(s)’ ; Next – ‘Simon Call For Immediate State Action On Homeless Crisis’, from ‘USI News’, February 1989.)
‘BRITISH BARRACKS ATTACKED IN OMAGH’.
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, November 1954.
The following statement was issued by IRA HQ :
“At 3.30am on Sunday, October 17th, 1954, a detachment of the Irish Republican Army carried out a raid on Omagh Military Barracks. The raid commenced when a small party of our volunteers infiltrated the barracks and proceeded to capture and disarm the sentries. Before this phase of the operation could be completed, the alarm was raised by the screams of a terrified sentry. The guard turned out and opened fire on our volunteers. The fire was returned, and the volunteers continued to advance to their objective, which was to open the main gate to admit the remainder of the detachment.
One of the volunteers broke through the fire and succeeded in reaching the objective. Whilst attempting to open the gate he was hit by a burst of enemy machinegun fire at close range. The main body of the garrison, having now been alerted, the volunteers succeeded in effecting a covered withdrawal, taking their wounded comrade with them. The withdrawal was effected in the face of heavy rifle and machine-gun fire, in the course of which another volunteer was wounded. Five of the enemy forces were wounded in the course of the engagement. All volunteers engaged in the operation have now been accounted for.
Signed : D. MacDiarmada, Adjutant-General.”
(END of ‘British Barracks Attacked In Omagh’ ; Next – ‘Seán Treacy Looked Down With Pride’, from the same source.)
ON THIS DAY NEXT WEEK (15TH JANUARY 2020) YOU’LL BE MISSING US…but your aim will get better on the 22nd!
We won’t be posting our usual contribution on Wednesday, 15th January 2020, and probably won’t be in a position to post anything at all until the following Wednesday, the 22nd ; this coming weekend (Saturday/Sunday 11th/12th January 2020) is spoke for already with a 650-ticket raffle to be run for the Dublin Executive of RSF in a venue on the Dublin/Kildare border, work on which begins on the Tuesday before the actual raffle, and the ‘autopsy’ into same which will take place on Monday evening, 13th, in Dublin, meaning that we will not have the time to post here.
But we’ll be back, as stated above, on Wednesday 22nd January 2020, so keep yer powder dry ’till then…!
Thanks for reading, Sharon.